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If you haven’t ever had a Mexican torta, you will be a convert once you have tried this classic torta with a carne asada filling.
A torta is basically a big sandwich that is filled with some kind of meat and lots of veggies and savory fruits. You can use beef, pork, chorizo, or even eggs as the protein. The other filling items can include lettuce, tomatoes, onion, spicy peppers, refried beans, and cheese.
The bread used for a torta is often a soft roll referred to as a telera. You might not be able to find this bread in your standard grocery store. But, there are other good options that I will get to in the substitutions section.
My torta recipe starts with making the carne asada from scratch. Carne asada is marinated and grilled beef, generally skirt or flank steak. You are going to need to start the carne asada the night before so it can absorb all the flavors of the marinade.
This is a big sandwich. Be sure to press it down and serve it with lots of napkins. I think this is great with savory plantain chips or yuca fries and a cold cerveza.
- 1 pound skirt steak
- 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Juice of 1 ½ fresh limes
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes cayenne
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil for cooking
- Carne asada sliced thinly against the grain
- 4 large soft rolls preferably telera, sliced in half horizontally
- 1 medium ripe avocado pitted and peeled
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice + a pinch of sea salt
- ½ cup refried beans optional
- 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes sliced thinly
- 4 thin slices of a red onion
- 1/2 cup queso fresco
- 2 small jalapeno peppers sliced thinly optional
- Hot sauce or salsa optional
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, and garlic. Add the onion powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, pepper, and cayenne. Whisk to combine well.
- Place the skirt steak inside a large baking dish or a resealable baggie. Pour the marinade over the meat and massage gently to evenly coat all surfaces.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap or seal the baggie tightly. Place this in the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
- Remove the skirt steak from the fridge 30 minutes prior to grilling to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Fire up your charcoal or gas grill for direct heat. Brush the grill grates with the avocado oil. Alternatively, you can cook the steak on an indoor grill plate.
- Grill the meat for approximately 5 minutes per side until the internal temperature reaches 130°F for just over medium rare.
- Remove the steak to a cutting board and allow it to rest while you gather and assemble your sandwich ingredients.
- Place the avocado halves in a bowl. Add the lime juice and a pinch of salt. Smash with a fork until you have chunky guacamole.
- Spread some avocado on the bottom halves of the rolls in equal amounts.
- Spoon some refried beans over the avocado mash, if using, and spread out evenly.
- Top the dressed rolls with shredded romaine, tomatoes, and onion slices.
- Slice the steak thinly against the grain. Place a handful of the beef on top of the onion slices.
- Top the steak with cheese and jalapeno slices, followed by hot sauce or salsa if desired.
- Place the tops of the rolls on the sandwiches and press down firmly to flatten the tortas so they hold together.
- Slice in half and serve with plenty of napkins and salty chips or fries.
Notes & Tips
- Marinating the steak for at least 4 hours is important to tenderize and flavor it. It is also important to allow it to come to room temperature before grilling and to allow it to rest before slicing. If you don’t slice the steak against the grain, it will be chewy and tough.
- This a well-stuffed sandwich, so pressing down on it helps to hold it together. You can also lightly grill it in a panini press or a contact grill.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
- Carne Asada: A Mexican torta does not have to be made with grilled beef. You can use pulled pork, grilled chicken, or crumbled cooked chorizo. If you want to save a lot of time, go for thinly sliced deli roast beef. For a vegetarian version, I recently discovered packages of seasoned jackfruit “meat” at my grocery store that I think would work perfectly.
- Telera Rolls: Unless you have a Latin market in your neighborhood, large kaiser rolls or ciabatta rolls are a great alternative to telera rolls. You can remove some of the soft centers of these rolls so the filling sinks into the buns.
- Refried Beans: When it comes to refried beans, I am not a snob and will use canned refried beans as a shortcut. Otherwise, I will simply smash some canned pinto beans with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also omit this ingredient.
- Romaine Lettuce: Just like with refried beans, I am not a lettuce snob and actually love iceberg lettuce. One of my favorite salads is a wedge salad that is iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, bacon, and blue cheese dressing. Iceberg lettuce is devoid of nutrition but it is extremely hydrating and super crunchy. I would use that or green cabbage in this torta in place of romaine.
- Queso Fresco: Queso fresco is basically Mexican white cheese that is aged, crumbly, and salty. Feta cheese is a great substitution.